Insulin Resistance

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vickie gee

Well-Known Member
May 29, 2008
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Dealing with it can be time consuming in preparing the diet and the grass free living quarters. But oh what we will do to restore health back to our beloved and gorgeous animals. A couple of years ago my mare Romey was diagnosed with it. She had gained weight, was in pain, had feet that looked horrible, and was almost motionless. Prior to that she was running like the wind, slim, and sassy. The previous owner had won show ribbons with her before I purchased her back in 2008. I had been working with her on jumps and she was doing well. I never seemed to get around to showing due to lack of time and money. But it was so joyful to just see how well she worked for me. Local vets were only treating the immediate symptoms but not the cause. I loaded her up and took her on the 2 hour drive to the vet I trust. He is the same one that did the emergency C-section to save my little paint mare Serenade. What a horrible first foaling that was. He is the same one who sent me to an equine orthopedic surgeon with Sunny, the little filly that came along next to have my hopes of a first live healthy birth dashed when she was born with crazily deformed front legs. So when Romey's problems became obviously worse I took her to the trusted vet I speak of. After $800 worth of testing to rule out other possible causes such as Cushings, hormone imbalance it turned out that she was most definitely insulin resistant. Even after I followed the vet's orders to get her off grass completely, soak her hay, get the feet trimmed monthly she did not show very much improvement. She would lie down in the barn and I was having to step over her to get to the two mares that were stalled as they neared their foaling times. Honestly, if I had the farm equipment to dig a deep hole I likely would have put her down. But then she finally started improving. Forum members Liz and Jax encouraged me that I could get her on the mend. I started getting more info from a web ring they told me about. I started supplementing her with vitamin E and an herb that starts with "J", and providing her with a daily walk, and lots of talk and love. We kept up the trimmings with my excellent ferrier. Within a year she was once again a vibrant, gorgeous, and active animal. The only thing missing was that spark in her eye that comes from companionship due to the fact that she was separated from the herd except for the times I turned her out muzzled. Then she would turn into a leaping lady jumping downed trees, doing her ballerina thing, running across our wooden bridge (yikes!), and looking like she was headed down the stretch at The Preakness! Maybe one day I will post a video of her, but knowing how I procrastinate that likely will not be until I start selling off the herd sometime. Anyway, it is a beautiful thing and I look back and am just so grateful that she healed and has the weight off. I use Purina Wellness Low Starch and am pleased with the results.

So fast forward to this year around January. Romey's dam, Faith is suddenly displaying all the same symptoms. Local vet treats and says probably arthritis. Bute helped temporarily. He said we could do some bloodwork. I decided to instead put her in with Romey and give her the same diet except for a while add bute powder (much cheaper) to her feed until the it was obvious that her pain was diminishing. She is on the mend! The spark is back in her gorgeous blue eyes and she is letting Romey know she is and will always be the queen bee! She has actually started running some when I turn them out together, both muzzled of course. This is a milestone considering that 5 months ago she could barely take a few steps. It might take a year to get her feet in shape, but when I look at how great Romey's look I know I can get there with her. Although I did not spend the money to get Faith diagnosed I am going to treat her as if she is IR because it seems to be working and the two ladies seem to be enjoying the mother/daughter relationship.

My local vet told me IR is not hereditary. Somewhere I know I read that it can be. I would be interested in what others opinions here of that are. I have no plans of allowing either to breed as I have more horses than I need (whatever that number is....haha) but I know Liz and Jax have been very successful at that. Faith has foaled numerous times. Romey just never settled and that was likely a blessing since I was trying to get her in foal back before all of symptoms showed up.

Anyway, I was just adoring them both this morning and decided to post in case anyone else is having issues with IR. I am no expert (although I do consider Jax and Liz experts) but I have certainly have the experience.
Glad you were able to figure it out and get them both on the road to wellness. IR is very manageable, mostly a change it diet. And, I'm sure I've read some where that is it can be inherited.
My riding mare that was IR, didn't have cushings but did founder in her front. With the rotation of those front I ended up losing her. I used Purina wellness weight control instead of the Low Starch. I tried every vet in my area and no one suggested that her feet be done monthly. I wish I had known to use the herbs you used. She may not have survived but there may have been a chance that she would have become companion sound. Good luck and keep us posted.
Great job getting them both back to health!!!! Perhaps consider cinnamon. I was taking chromium but my midwife and friend suggested I take cinnamon, especially due to my medical history, so I started taking it again. I take it to regulate my blood sugar levels. Women with IR are encouraged to avoid simple carbs and especially need b vitamins. I suppose biotin would then be a good supplement, but it sounds like you are doing everything right
I also believe that it is hereditary.
I forgot about cinnamon. I did use it back when Romey was recovering I would add a little to her daily food. Thanks for reminding me. I will take mine from the kitchen out to the barn and pick up another to replace it next time I go buy groceries.
In the June EQUUS magazine, the first major article is an article about EMS/IR and why is seems prevalent in certain breeds but not others. A university in Australia did a study on this on Andalusian horses, a mixture of pony breeds and Standardbreds horses. They did both oral and intravenous doses of insulin to determine the horses' body's ability to this increased insulin load. The Andalusians and ponies did not do well, while the Standardbreds didn't seem to have any problems with it all. The idea behind the study was to determine if hereditary factors are indeed pertinent to EMS/IR horses. Their findings point to the idea that it indeed is a likely significant component.

Congratulations on doing such a good job of caring for your girls!

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